Out of Hollywood…
One of the most fickle things in filmmaking is not being in a city built for it. I currently live in a city within Los Angeles County but not in the city of Los Angeles. Having grown up in the suburbs, where life slows down A LOT, I felt like I moved from the hot waters of Hollywood to the cold waters of the boonies. Not to mention, facilities normally found just around the corner were, now, cities apart. Organizations that normally supported me hadn’t been heard of where I am. I might as well have moved to China from the U.S., it’s so different out here!
I’ve somewhat found a way to make due with what is around me. Sure, there are less of everything found in the city but there’s also more space and opportunities to build here. There are less rules and more possibilities ,which helps the creatives do more and make more without fear. So, here’s a simple list of how you can utilize the space wherever you are, to do whatever you want to! No one ever has it this good in the big cities that are ripe for the shooting. Everything won’t line up just because you want it to. Trust me, I’ve been in the center of film industry and now… I can breathe easier away from it all.
Because there is no new idea, there are only new spins on old ideas, SIMPLIFY what you want to say and go with it. In Hollywood, the pressure is on because many people have similar ideas, so writers and creators have to come up with wilder, more dramatic, and more extreme stories because THAT’S what Hollywood wants. You have to stand out from and above the rest to get noticed and have your stories made. That means; more violence, more cursing, and more blood. The love scenes can’t be gentle, they have to be rough and show a lot of skin. Bloodshed must be on a grand scale, covering fields of people on horseback or charging on dragons… You get the point.
But, when creating outside of the narrow Hollywood scope, there is more freedom with creative storytelling and filmmaking. There is less pressure to show the world full of one color and more opportunities to reflect on the melting pot society. Think about the countless award-winning films shot outside of Hollywood that have been better than what Hollywood has produced. Not just the American films, but ever wonder why Bollywood and Hallyu exists and thrives?
Funny how they tell the same stories but are more successful, eh?
The one place I loved casting the most was at the Space Station Casting Studio! This location is so convenient and had plenty of space. They are professional, well equipped, and super organized. I thought their set-up was brilliant and very professional! From checking in with a tablet in comfortable waiting rooms, to casting with good lighting and convenient set-ups. Wow. … Where I am, now, there’s NOTHING like that. There aren’t even offices or studios with good sound, to rent on a daily basis. There are no theaters that allow hourly renting, no studios that are good for sound, and no spaces that benefit the casting crew nor actors.
But, there are cafes. My favorite cafe is in a busier lot on the main streets. It’s called Julie’s Cafe and they don’t have a lot of space, but enough. They have an outdoor patio where I set-up shop to meet actors one-on-one. I schedule and confirm with actors before heading out to meet them. The environment is decent enough, most people leave us alone, and no one bothers with who is where with whom doing what. I make sure to buy a decent meal before my meetings and offer my actors a beverage when they arrive. It’s cozy and very personal, which helps them feel more at ease, especially during the cold read. There aren’t sound-proof walls, nor are there comfortable seats, and a consistently blowing AC, but there is shade, a nice breeze, and a restroom close by. If you think about it, that’s all that’s really needed when it comes to casting.
This one part, I’m willing to pull from the big city. Finding a good DP or cinematographer is rare. Building your trust and relationship with them takes time. Talking to them to make sure you understand each other and working with them for the best outcome is a journey. Once you’ve traveled with someone, you know if you can again or not. Most people I travel with, I do so again because I enjoyed the trip. I am loyal to a fault, and would pay for their close over-night accommodations if I had to. This, also, goes for a good Producer, AD, PA, MU, and etc. If we’ve traveled well before, why not go again? And since opportunities are hard to come by, they are more willing to come to you, too!
But, if you choose, to start over on your roster of DPs and cinematographers, along with your crew, then I suggest putting out a Craigslist Ad or checking out Stage32.com to see if there are any close to you that are looking to network and connect! I know ProductionHub.com helps but smaller cities have fewer specialists. Thankfully, closer to art schools, there are younger students looking for new experiences. I live close to Chapman University, to some degree, so I can see if there’s a student who is looking for more experience, whose style is closer to what I’m looking for. … Why not?
Most issues in Los Angeles revolve around LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION!! Shop owners know and understand that shoots can be costly, therefore they ask to be compensated on top of paying the fees required. They know they can charge up the wazoo if people really needs their look and feel for their projects. But in smaller cities, most people don’t mind helping you if you keep the shoot small and give them some free publicity. Any free exposure is usually a nice trade for taking up a bit of their down time.
If you can find locations with unique looks and feels, then that’s all the more reason to build relationships and make a good impression. If you do it right, they’ll let you come back and do it again. First impressions are important. If you lie and say it’s a small scene and then trash the place, they’ll NEVER let you return and your reputation will be ruined amongst the rest of the city because people talk. And don’t try to get somewhere just because you want to. Make sure it fits your story before you make a move to ask for permission. Because it’s a private establishment, you need the permission of the manager or owner. Even shooting outside, if you’re in a small enough city, removed enough from the big city, use all the sticks you want to. Have at it!
As they say, it’s always easy to apologize… AFTER you got the shot.
Being away from the big cities allow you opportunities you don’t usually have. This means you can connect with local businesses, offer them exposure, give local actors a chance, and work with the local goods and produce to enhance your production value. Be positive, up beat, and happy, and respectful (of course)! Don’t give yourself a bad reputation and ALWAYS be quick to apologize for any mistakes you’ve made.
Some professionals get tired of the industry and move home. You could live in the same city as retired professionals and not know about it if you don’t TALK to the people in your city. Strange as it is, it was always a rumor that Snoop Dogg lives close to my city and I, later, found out it was true. Not to mention, his kid went to my high school. Woohoo!! I’d never ask anything from him, but think about the others who can live in your city. What other treasures can you uncover just by connecting to those around you? (Also, heh, Alex Morgan is from my lovely city, too!)
I look back on my time in Hollywood as a valuable experience. It has taught me plenty, given me many lifelong mentors, and grown me as a person. Well-rounded and equipped with knowledge to share through my mistakes and failures, along with successes and triumphs, I am a great deal stronger NOW. I can think on my feet and improvise with any situation. I can push on any budget and spot talent from miles off. Darn tootin’, I can!
In a recent discussion with a friend, she asked me to talk to her class about being someone who worked hard to make it behind the camera in the industry. I laughed and asked why she wanted a ‘failure‘ to talk to her class. Her response brought tears to my eyes. She said,
“You’re not a failure. You worked hard in your field and, though the outcome was different, you succeeded in pursuing your dreams. That’s pretty awesome.”
Well… put that way, I did not fail. I successfully pursued my dreams to discover the better path for myself. Although, not specifically in Hollywood, my dream was to become a filmmaker who told great stories. ~ So, I did succeed.